It’s Unofficially Officially Spring!

Happy Earth Week!

Spring is here! We’ve been waiting to say these three words with an exclamation mark for a while. We didn’t know when we could say them out loud. Officially, we could have said them 32 days ago, but many people wouldn’t have heard us. That’s because they were wearing earmuffs and hats that cover their ears. You need to stay warm when you’re digging yourself out of six foot snow drifts.

Now, 32 days later, the not-so-official announcement that spring has truly arrived has arrived. We’re making a prediction. We’re not meteorologists, but we have been outside. We also have weather apps. We’ve seen the snow melting. The temperatures hit a tropical 60 degrees in Minnesota, and we realize it’s almost May. It’s a safe bet that spring is here to stay. Of course, we’re not 100 percent certain. We got fooled two weeks ago with a blizzard and one foot of snow.

anchorman-2_-the-legend-con

Who says that humans are the only ones with a sense of humor?

Like our official announcement of spring, we’re also announcing the kick off our tree giveaway, which will be happening at schools and communities across the US this week! If you signed-up to receive a tree with your child this week, thank you for joining us.

rolling-up-sleeve

So yes, the time has finally come. It’s time to pack away our parkas, scarves, earmuffs, woolen hats, mitts and other winter paraphernalia to the attic. It’s time to replace the snow shovels with garden shovels. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty again.

Tree planting season is back. And spring is finally, officially, we-really-think-so-this-time, absolutely here!

We’re in the Home Stretch!

 

French-Bulldog-Stretch

 

Spring has sprung!

That’s right. In just a few weeks, the tree giveaway will be happening at schools and communities across the US (and even in parts of Canada!).

Did you register for a tree this year? Awesome! You’re all set.

Slipped your mind? Forgot to tie that string on your finger? That’s okay. You’ve earned your good karma points. You still have a chance to register for a tree until Sunday, April 9 even if your school’s deadline has passed.

Is your child’s school participating this year? Can’t remember? You can find out here. Don’t see your child’s school on the list? That’s okay too. You can sign up here. (Make sure you do this on a tablet, laptop or desk computer.)

 

tie

 

Spring may be the season for tree planting, but there’s some “family members” that haven’t been feeling the tree hugging love.

You might know one or two. We know one. Surprised how we overlooked him. He loves to dig. He loves dirt and after fire hydrants trees are his best friend. If anyone was a natural at tree planting (or tree wetting!), it’s him!

So rather than feeling left out this year, he took the initiative. We still don’t know how he learned to type. But that’s for another day.

Right now it’s time to exhale, lift our heads up and stretch towards Earth Day. As you enjoy this spring season with its blossoming flowers, blue skies and warmer weather, remember to keep your umbrellas handy. It’s going to be raining trees for the next few weeks!

 

 

What Are You Thankful For?

It’s Thanksgiving in America today.

It’s the busiest travel day of the year. Nearly 48 million people will be traveling by car, rail or plane! Three million U.S. airline passengers will swarm airports hoping to catch flights, although many travelers will be stuck at airport checkout counters. Others will be stuck in long security lines holding their shoes, eventually wandering around the terminal in their socks hoping to escape by automobile. Car transportation isn’t any better though. The roads and highways are just as bad, though the bonus is you keep your shoes on.

None of these Thanksgiving travel experiences puts someone in a good mood, but it does burn calories and make a person hungry. So it’s no surprise that at Thanksgiving everyone eats lots of food. There’s the staples like cranberry sauce, turkey and mashed potatoes. There’s new twists on old traditions too – Tofurkey, cauliflower stuffing, and other dairy-free and meat-free options for vegans and vegetarians.

Whether you’re on a special diet or not, today’s the day when rules can be broken. We can loosen our belt four notches, kick our no-carbs diet to the curb and attack apple pies like a ravenous banshee. We justify it with these words: “C’mon! It’s Thanksgiving. It’s only once a year. A little indulgence is okay.”

20151109-thanksgiving-pie-recipe-roundup-10

So this Thanksgiving, whether you’re stuck in security lines or not, whether you’re adjusting the notches on your belt or not, whether you’re eating Tofurkey or not, let’s remember what this holiday is really about. (No, it’s not about the Pre-Black Friday TV Mega Sale at your local Best Buy.)

It’s about giving thanks. Thanks to our beautiful planet for giving us life. And thanks to the amazing trees. They provide us with the apple pie on our plates, the roof over our heads (literally), and so much more. (See video below.)

Let’s be grateful and count our blessings today.

And let’s save our ungratefulness for the food hangover and indigestion tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Being Bigger

Remember those days many years ago when the only way to see anything was to look up?

Remember when an upward tilt of your head was followed by a surprise pat on your noggin, a pinch on your cheek, or a remark about your adorability factor?

Well, Neighborhood Forest’s 8 year old spokesman Ishaan knows all about it. And so do some of his friends.

Enjoy! :-)

 

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids) – an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

Horace Cleveland — The Man behind the Cape

“Why aren’t there condos here?”

That’s the thought that bobbed around in my head when my brother and I biked around Minneapolis last summer.

Biking around the city was my brother’s idea. It was my first summer in Minneapolis after my move, and he thought it was the best way for me to see the city up close.

Up to that point my view of the city was limited, confined to the window seats of planes when I’d visit my brother and his family during the Christmas holidays. It was always the same. I looked down from several thousand feet and saw a city covered in blankets of snow with a landscape that looked like the terrain of Antarctica.

My yearly winter visits didn’t allow for much outdoor sightseeing either. The weather was rarely friendly in December, and I didn’t find it appealing to dress up like the Michelin Man and waddle around as a tourist in a massive parka, four scarves, ski mask, goggles and ear muffs.

It wasn’t my idea of fun. Maybe that’s why my brother kept my “outdoor” activities within climate-controlled environments, like walks around the downtown skyway, social gatherings (indoors of course), or coffee shop chats where he pressured me to warm up my innards with mugs of hot chocolate.

My summer bike ride, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. My view of the city transformed from white, grey and frozen to Dorothy in Technicolor in the Wizard of Oz. I was led me through parks and wooded areas, over a winding creek and quaint bridges, around gorgeous trees and beautiful lakes.

I thought I was dreaming. I was engulfed in green everywhere, pinching myself, thinking I’d wake up and the continuous backdrop of trees, lakes and parks would disappear, and I’d be staring out the window of another plane again.

Why hadn’t I experienced this feeling in other places? I’d visited other cities with green space, but they didn’t seem as extensive or well-planned. Some cities had tiny scraps of green refuge and whatever was left of them was being overtaken by an infestation of condos, strip malls or armies of Starbucks.

Who was responsible for my oasis of bicycling happiness that day? Was it the work, I thought, of a mighty environmental superhero, someone with blue tights, a cape and a big S stretched across his chest?

 Bike ride sunset over Lake of the Isles

 

I knew my superhero idea was more comic book imagination than reality, but I was curious to find out if it was true. My curiosity led me to a hero of sorts, although his blue tights and cape were replaced with a chin curtain, blazer and bow-tie.

His name was Horace Cleveland.

Horace Cleveland may not have leaped tall buildings in a single bound or had x-ray vision, but he definitely saw the future. Here’s what he said almost 120 years ago:

“Look forward for a century to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity or restore a natural feature of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value…”

 

Hero Horace

Fortunately, the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners knew the importance of seizing a lost opportunity and gave Cleveland, a noted landscape architect, the thumbs up to plan out his vision.  With the support of Charles Loring, an influential commissioner and the first president of the Minneapolis Park Board, Cleveland became the mastermind behind a number of parks and interconnected parkways that preserved the existing natural features within and around the city.

Future park commissioners and superintendents expanded on his vision, particularly Theodore Wirth (an instrumental advocate of the Minneapolis Park System), which ultimately lead to the famous “Grand Rounds,” an interconnected series of parkways, and parks, centered on the Mississippi River.

Broken down, the city now has parks within 6 blocks of every resident, comprising a 6,400-acre system consisting of local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, the Chain of Lakes (which receive over 5 million visits yearly) and a 55-mile parkway system.

Need to soak that all in? Here’s a cool video that shows how it all began.

Over a century later, the Minneapolis Park System is still getting top marks. When asked in a recent survey what percentage of Minneapolis residents saw the parks and lakes as a unique and valuable asset, the number was 99 percent! What’s more, the city was voted this year as having the best park system in the country.

Much of the praise can be traced back to Cleveland’s influence, his philosophy of open spaces, natural design, and the importance of preserving these public spaces for future generations to enjoy.

I hope my work at Neighborhood Forest can continue to enhance the natural beauty of our neighborhoods like Cleveland and the city’s visionaries did. The city of Minneapolis is beautiful, and I hope our work can take that beauty to the surrounding suburbs, other towns and cities across the state, and eventually across the nation.

I imagine that would make Horace Cleveland happy, other than trading in his bow-tie and blazer for a cape.

Image source: 3rd image

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

Earth Day is Coming. The New Hires are Waiting.

“Mr. Finneas, your 9 am is here.”

“Send him in.”

Door creaks open.

“Come in, come in. You must be Mr. Quercus Alba.”

“Yes, sir. But you can call me Bob.”

“Sure Bob. Please have a seat.”

“I prefer to stand, sir.”

“Sure. Look, Bob, we reviewed your resume and here’s what we think: it’s outstanding. Graduated top of your class. Strong commitment to community service. Ivy League.”

“It’s actually oak, sir.”

“Right. What’s more, you have an impressive skill set.”

“Well, it’s nothing really…I…”

“Nothing? Produce oxygen, improve air quality, clean the soil, control noise pollution, slow storm water run off, provide shade, act as a windbreak, fight soil erosion…”

“Create spreadsheets.”

“Really…I…didn’t…”

“Kidding.”

“Right. Look Bob, your skills are great, but we’re concerned about our bottom line here at Finneas and Fir, and well, you know…”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees, right?”

“Right.”

“Wrong, sir. I increase property values too.”

“Really?”

“Second page, sir, under additional qualifications — next to eye for detail.”

“Right. Well, I think that settles it. Congratulations Bob. You’re hired. Now if we only had more overachievers like you on board, we’d be able to cut out some of the deadwood around here.”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Figure of speech.”

“Oh.”

If trees were employees, anyone would hire them. They are great workers. They don’t take vacations, they work long hours and definitely don’t embarrass themselves at office parties.

Like any great worker, they impact the environment around them. The roles that trees play in our neighborhoods and our communities directly affect the quality of our air, water and soil. What are some of those roles?

Trees make our lungs happy by cleaning the air. They take in carbon dioxide through their leaves and give off oxygen we need to breathe. A mature tree pumps out as much oxygen in one season as 10 people will inhale in an entire year.

When there’s rain, a tree’s roots help hold soil in place to prevent erosion, which not only saves soil but also keeps our streams, rivers and lakes cleaner.

“Trees, these wonderful stewards of the Earth, deserve our appreciation. On April 22, Earth Day, we invite you to spread the love.”

Of course, they are many ways in which trees affect our environment. That’s why these wonderful stewards of the Earth deserve our appreciation. On April 22, Earth Day, we invite you to spread the love.

 

On Earth Day we’re giving hundreds of trees away to over 10 schools throughout the Twin Cities. If you’re the parent of a child getting a tree, plant it with them and make it an event. Post a picture on Facebook or tweet about it to your friends and family. Your tree will love all the attention.

The trees are ready to meet their new families this Earth Day. Make them feel welcome. They’ve got a lot of work to do!

For more information on the many ways in which trees affect our urban environments, check out this excellent video.

Planting Roots Online

Welcome to our new website!

Thank you for being here. We hope the new website makes it easier for you to connect with us and find out what’s happening at Neighborhood Forest.

You might be familiar with us already. You might be a school coordinator, the parent of a child who received a free tree at school, or one of our green sponsors — if so, we’d like to thank you. It’s your commitment to Neighborhood Forest that’s helped us give more free trees to more schoolchildren each year. Your encouragement, your suggestions and your continuing support have been invaluable. Neighborhood Forest couldn’t have gotten this far without you.

In 2013, we plan to build on our momentum. The new website will play a pivotal role in connecting us to more schools, children, parents, and green sponsors in the Twin Cities and beyond.

If you are new to Neighborhood Forest, consider this an invitation to be part of our online community. Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or drop us a line. Let us know your thoughts.

“You might be a school coordinator, the parent of a child who received a free tree at school, or one of our green sponsors — if so, we’d like to thank you.”

If your thoughts are you’d like more people to know what we’re doing, feel free to pass a friendly word along, or better yet, become a school coordinator or even a sponsor. Tell a friend, speak to your child’s teacher, your next-door neighbor, your boss, the school around the corner, the green business down the block, or even that progressive uncle who can’t stop talking about his plug-in hybrid, about our mission to give away free trees to kids every Earth Day.

What if you know people who live outside the Twin Cities or Minnesota? No worries. They’re welcome here too. We plan to expand beyond our state borders in the future, so we may be in their neighborhood soon.

So thank you again, all of you, new friends and old, for your interest in Neighborhood Forest.

We hope you stick around for this exciting journey. Together, we’ll be able to get more small trees into the little hands of more beautiful children.